The 26th Annual Labour Appreciation Night recognizes incredible leaders

It’s not often the labour movement gets to recognize the accomplishments of its activists, so at the 2019 Labour Appreciation Night, presented by Pacific Blue Cross, four community leaders were honoured. This year’s event was co-hosted with the Vancouver and District Labour Council, New Westminster & District Labour Council and for the first time, the Fraser Valley Labour Council.

This celebration highlights why the United Way and the Canadian labour movement work so closely together.

award winners and presenters

During his speech, Neal Adolph, Director of the CLC Labour Participation Department at United Way of the Lower Mainland explained: “Unions don’t only look after themselves. You build community in acts of solidarity with people who need a hand up,” he said. “So does the United Way.”

Mervyn van Steinburg receives the Joe Morris Labour Community Service Award

Mervyn van Steinburg was the obvious choice for United Way’s 2019 Joe Morris Labour Community Service Award.

Merv has been a lifelong advocate for working people. During his union career he served as President of the CUPE local representing Unemployed Action Centre Coordinators and as Treasurer of IBEW 213. For 30 years Merv was the Director of the CLC Labour Participation Department at United Way of the Lower Mainland. During his tenure, he expanded the scope of the partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress and local labour councils.

Some of his favourite memories from his time at the United Way include helping establish the Labour Heritage Centre and the Union Protein Project and being involved in the annual CLC Winter School at Harrison Hot Springs.

In September 2019 he retired as the Director of Partnership and Community Engagement IBEW 213.

Victor Elkins keeps it positive with the VDLC

The Vancouver and District Labour Council’s 2019 Syd Thompson Community Service Award was presented to Victor Elkins.

Victor started his labour and community activism nearly three decades ago when he moved to Vancouver from Edmonton. Early in his career, he committed himself to empowering families living in poverty while building understanding of others with a focus on community. He believes equality will be achieved when power is shared equally.

stephan and victor

For Victor, there is nothing more rewarding than queering the union movement. As a union member, he lobbied the provincial government to protect public health care and national government on economic issues such as pension reform and changes to EI, social justice issues such as the gun registry, and women’s rights. After being a member for more than two decades, Victor served as President of the Hospital Employees Union from 2012 to 2018. He now serves as the Executive Director of Positive Living Society of BC, where he is particularly dedicated to reducing the stigma of HIV/AIDs.

NWDLC recognizes Jeannie Kilby’s commitment to community

Every year, the New Westminster & District Labour Council recognizes someone who demonstrates outstanding labour activism and community service, and this year’s recipient, Jeannie Kilby, was a clear choice for the 2019 award.

Jeannie was the first woman hired as an outside worker at the City of Surrey in 1985. Her dad was a union activist and president, and she knew she could play a role in standing up for her coworkers. She gained valuable insight from her early volunteer experiences that helped her understand her role as she developed her commitment to union leadership. Now, as President of CUPE 402, she is dedicated to educating and engaging the union executive and membership to support the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.

jeannie kilby and janet andrews


Jeannie currently sits on United Way of the Lower Mainland’s Board of Directors, where she chairs the Labour Committee of the Board. She also serves as co-chair of the Campaign Cabinet Labour Committee and supports efforts to fundraise in municipalities on the Campaign Cabinet Committee. She sees the partnership between the CLC and United Way as an essential part of the labour movement and believes that it needs to keep moving forward to build strong, caring and inclusive communities.

Brian Harder wins the inaugural FVLC Labour Leadership Award

The Fraser Valley Labour Council introduced its Labour Leadership Award this year, and named it after its first recipient, Brian Harder.

Brian has been volunteering in his community since he was 17 years old. He has always stepped up to support people when they are experiencing challenges. He first got involved in the labour movement as a steward for IBEW. He has served as President of the USW Local 1-3567 and as the Health, Safety and Environment Coordinator for USW District 3. As the Safety Coordinator, he served on the Safer Advisory Council Board of Directors.

DJ pohl and brian harder

Brian was instrumental in developing the Fraser Valley Labour Council and served as their founding president. During his years of leadership he encouraged the council to grow its involvement in community, which he sees as essential to how unions can support society. Brian believes that unions play an essential role in improving the lives of all working people and their families by engaging with local government and promoting better public policy.

woman gets pacific blue cross voucher

This year’s Labour Appreciation Night was presented by Pacific Blue Cross as part of their long-standing partnership with the Labour movement and United Way of the Lower Mainland. BC’s number one health benefits provider used its sponsorship role at the event to help shine a light on the unique health needs of women and all people that menstruate by positioning customized Period Promise centerpieces at each table. Not only did the centerpieces highlight Pacific Blue Cross’ ongoing commitment to the Period Promise Campaign, it also left a smile on the faces of some very lucky attendees.

Thank you Pacific Blue Cross for your ongoing support to improving the health and well-being of our community!